Kicking the bucket list

In common I guess with most readers I love getting books as presents. And I love getting those unsolicited reads, books that you'd probably never think of buying for yourself, but enjoy reading when you get them unexpectedly. Thanks to my pals Liz and Archie I got a copy of Richard Wilson's Can't be ars*d, his antidote to the printed bucket list.

I blame it on the Millennium, it seemed to unleash a wave of superstitious mumbo-jumbo, most of which told us that the world was about to end any day now! And it's still ongoing... according to some apocalyptically minded types we were lucky to make it to last Christmas. But it is quite extraordinary that from the late 1990s onwards a wave of bucket-list books were published - 1001 places to go before you die, 1001 books to read, films to see, fish to catch (yes, honestly!) and so on. According to Richard Wilson (not Victor Meldrew - this Richard Wilson is a comedy writer and executive producer of Have I got news for you) there's also a huge number of similar lists available on the web.

Can't be ars*d features 101 suggestions along with Wilson's usually very good and very funny reasons as to why you'd be better off not doing them. Every item on his list has featured on a bucket list somewhere (the bibliography alone makes hilarious reading - hard to believe but there really is a book called 101 things to do in Louisiana before you up and die). He is very very funny, laugh out loud funny; but there's also a more serious side - he muses on the advantages / disadvantages of tourism, pokes gentle perceptive fun at the latest restaurant trends, and argues against cultural imperialism.

It's completely hilarious, and also surprisingly thought provoking. I suspect that it's a book that will appeal more to a British audience - I may be wrong, but I suspect that there isn't a big market for Bruce Forsyth jokes in Chicago; although there are some themes that are undoubtedly universal. I was quite surprised to discover that I'd already done 25% of the things that the author would encourage you not to do - although I too had given up on War and Peace.

One slightly surprising side-effect of the book for me was that it encouraged me to make my own bucket list. I did this light-heartedly, deciding that anything could go on it whether it was completely unlikely to happen or not. In fact it turned out to be an interesting exercise, some of the "wants" were unsurprising - places I'd wanted to visit for years, things I'd wanted to do. But it did sort of surprise me what was important to me, and in a funny sort of way it turned out to be a stimulating exercise.

And that really is just like Can't be ars*d - in spite of the title it does manage to be both funny and stimulating.


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